The Guardian has recently uncovered audits and whistleblowing reports from factories that supply the fast-fashion retailer Boohoo. All 18 audit reports raised questions about minimum wage violations at the time they were conducted. Issues identified in these supplier audits include inaccurate hours recorded for workers potentially resulting in workers not receiving the minimum wage or their furlough money, workers not having the right to work in the UK, and employees being issued with contracts that aren’t in their native language amongst others.
Collected news links from external sources related to topics concerning the Book Chain Project.
A six-week consultation on new climate disclosure rules for the UK’s pension sector started on 26th August. Under the proposed changes, pension schemes with £5bn or more in assets under management will be required to both assess and publicly report on the physical and transition risks facing assets in their portfolios by the end of 2022.
Smaller schemes which still have more than £1bn of assets under management would then be subjected to the same requirements by the end of 2023. To ensure that disclosures are uniform, pension schemes will be mandated to follow the recommendations of the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD).
According to the Department of Work and Pensions’ Secretary of State, once this roll-out is complete, 70% of the UK’s pension sector, in terms of assets under management, would be covered.
As migrant workers continue to be on the frontline of the collective response to Covid-19, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) have published new employer guidance on measures to protect them.
The guidance highlights the role of the private sector and is presented in five categories: physical and mental health; living and working conditions; economic support; ethical recruitment; and supply chain transparency. Click here to download the guidance for migrant workers.
Covid waste” – dozens of gloves, masks and bottles of hand sanitiser have been found by NGO Operation Mer Prope in the Mediterranean, mixed in with the usual litter of disposable cups and aluminum cans. This is after Hong Kong based NGO OceansAsia raised the alarm earlier on this year, in response to finding masks on the beaches of the uninhabited Soko Islands. This new form of waste could be a sign of things to come in the future.
Statement: International community urges Cambodian government to take action to address issues of human & labor rights violations
After a yearlong official investigation, the European Union still found serious and systematic violations of human rights including severe limitations to political rights and freedom of speech as well as serious barriers to labour rights and workers exercising their associational rights. The EU has now decided to partially and temporarily suspend preferential tariffs the Government of Cambodia enjoyed. This decision comes at the end of years of concerns raised by the international community. Fair Wear, Clean Clothes Campaign, CNV Internationaal, Ethical Trading Initiative, INRetail, Modint and Mondiaal FNV have released a joint statement responding to the EU’s decision and urging the Cambodian government to take urgent action.
Inconsistent business action in response to Covid-19 (novel coronavirus), first reported from Wuhan, China
Includes company responses, the latest jobs and events announcements.
• Declared a global emergency, the novel coronavirus impacts workers’ rights around the world as employers seek to protect business and supply chains.
• Migrant workers from Malaysia reportedly return home without owed wages as employers try to force them to stay.
• Employees of American Airlines concerned about unknown health threats file a USA lawsuit to halt flights to China; airline has stated it is “taking precautions”.
• Technology firms allegedly maintain manufacturing operations despite government calls for companies to halt work to stop coronavirus spread.
As the situation with Covid-19 continues to develop rapidly, Publishers including Oxford University Press and Wiley have been responding to the global health epidemic by making relevant research quickly and freely available. For the duration of the outbreak, all peer-reviewed publications regarding the outbreak will be made available freely.
China: Investigation finds labour abuse & sexual harassment at toy factories producing for international brands; Includes company responses
In November 2019, labour rights NGO China Labour Watch (CLW) released a report raising allegations of labour abuses faced by workers at five factories producing for international toy brands in Guangdong Province, China. Abuses documented by CLW include low wages, excessive overtime, inadequate health and safety protections, poor living conditions in worker dormitories, restrictions to freedom of association, discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based violence. Brand companies (including Disney, Lego, BuzzBee etc.) are taking actions.
- Labour & Environment
- Business and Human Rights
- China Labour Watch
- excessive overtime
- gender-based violence
- Guangdong Province
- inadequate health and safety protections
- Labour abuse
- labour abuse & sexual harassment
- labour rights NGO
- Low wages
- Poor living conditions
- restrictions to freedom of association
- sexual harassment
Premier Li Keqiang has signed a State Council decree to publish a regulation on guaranteeing payments of wages to rural migrant workers. The regulation requires market entities should take the lead under the supervision of government and society including labour unions, social medias etc. It states employers must pay employment wage in full and on time through bank transfers or cash. It also clarifies the responsibilities of employers for paying off arrears to migrant workers and corresponding legal account abilities for any breach of the regulation. This regulation will go into effect on 1st of May, 2020.
With lots of emphasis laid on the environmental matters, social and anti-corruption matters gain insufficient attention. Evidence shows that current transparency and voluntary regimes are not yielding strong human rights due diligence by companies. Europe’s leadership in the next year on human rights and environmental due diligence legislation has never been more needed.
A large fire has swept through a bag factory in the Indian capital Delhi, killing 43 workers. A local fire chief claims that the building did not have a proper fire licence and was operating illegally as a factory. The owner of the factory has been arrested. An electrical short circuit may have caused the fire.
Latest UN Emissions Gap Report finds world must ramp up climate ambitions at least threefold to meet Paris goals
The Emissions Gap Report 2019 finds that total greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 1.5 percent per year over the past decade, and that even if all current commitments made under the Paris Agreement were implemented, global temperatures would rise by 3.2°C. Countries would have to ratchet up their emissions reductions commitments threefold to meet the 2°C target by 2030.To reach the 1.5°C target, it would require a five-fold increase in countries’ emissions reduction commitments.
Early December, over 100 NGOs, trade unions and networks stress their demands for binding rules on corporate respect for human rights and the environment. They point out that although some companies are taking actions to meet their responsibilities in their global operations, there are many others linked to serious abuses, including modern slavery, gender discrimination, corruption, deforestation, etc. Current EU policy and legislation fails to adequately address this challenge. They propose that 1) companies and investors are required to carry out human rights andenvironmental due diligence; 2) new binding EU legislation that increases protection for individuals and communities, workers and their representatives, human rights defenders, and the environment, is passed.
The US Customs Border Authority has banned the import of products from certain companies accused of modern slavery violations. The law came into effect in 2016 but this action shows that it can have teeth.
One of the five products/companies was a garment factory in Xinjiang, China, and another one a Malaysian rubber glove factory. The latter was accused of withholding wages, excessive recruitment fees and withholding of passports in a Guardian report back in December 2018 here.
Amazon is investigating the working practices of one of its key suppliers in China - Hengyang Foxconn factory after they were found to have illegally recruited hundreds of student interns aged 16-18, many of whom were also working overtime. These students worked long hours to meet production targets. Those working overtime were only paid the normal hourly rate instead of time-and-a-half which is required by Chinese law and by Amazon’s own supplier code of conduct.
China has taken further steps to reduce the burden of social insurance on employers by implementing new policies and rules. On production safety, the government issued a policy titled ‘Measures on Coordination Between Administrative Enforcement and Criminal Proceedings in Production Safety Crimes’, which will mean tighter enforcement in this area. Some new updates on workplace sexual harassment and personal data protection have also been put forward by government. Employers are asked to review these newly issued policies and any forthcoming national and local policies to ensure their practices are in line with the regulations.
India's top court instructed a garment firm to pay pensions to women who had worked for them from home in the 1990s. There are an estimated 37 million home-based workers across various sectors in India. Besides being denied minimum wages, home-workers get no social security or medical benefits from employers and have virtually no avenue to seek redress for abusive or unfair conditions. The new ruling could set a precedent, helping millions of "invisible" workers access staff benefits.
An 18-month investigation conducted by Transparentem unearthed serious abuses at five apparel factories in Malaysia – hundreds of migrant workers had paid illegal recruitment fees that sometimes exceeded a year’s pay, while four of the factories retained the workers’ passports. The findings were presented to 23 western companies, fifteen of whom agreed to help remediate the five factories by defining specific resolutions. In addition, the American Apparel and Footwear Association – which includes Nike, Gap, Ralph Lauren and 120 other companies – announced a new policy on “responsible recruitment” that requires “supply chain partners” to make sure no workers pay recruitment fees and “workers retain control of their travel documents and have full freedom of movement”.
In late April, 29 instances of labour unrest occurred in China, but none of these incidents were reported in the state-run press. This contrasts sharply with the widespread coverage of the tech industry’s pervasive “996” work culture, where employees are expected to work 9am to 9pm, six days per week.
In the build-up to Indian general elections, a survey found that clean drinking water and agriculture-related governance were high on Indian voters’ list of priorities. High levels of water and air pollution, plaguing Indian cities in recent years, were a bigger concern for voters in urban areas.